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Leamington craft beer creator celebrates supermarket success with Waitrose deal for brand new lager

Empress Lager

A Leamington-based beer brand is celebrating supermarket success after its brand new lager hit the shelves in Waitrose.

Empress Ale’s craft beers are already stocked in top restaurants across the country but the business has now added a lager to its range for the first time, with the new creation snapped up by the supermarket chain for sale across the country.

Empress Lager

Leamington entrepreneur Surj Virk set up Empress Ale in 2016 and since then has grown it into a premium brand whose Pale Ale and IPA are stocked in some of the top hospitality venues across the country, including restaurants owned by top chefs Tom Kerridge and Jason Atherton, as well as local venues in the town including The Terrace, Oscar’s French Bistro, Bedford Street Bar and Jomo.

The company has now created a British-produced Pilsner-style Lager, which is gluten-free, organic and vegan and is now available in 273 Waitrose stores in the UK in what is an emotional moment for Founder and MD Surj.

He said: “Empress is hugely personal to me – it’s a British-made beer using old English recipes for inspiration, but also gives a nod to my Indian heritage and some personal tributes to members of my family.

“For me, Empress really is a true modern British brand and we’re delighted that our new, unique product – a pilsner-style lager – is being stocked by Waitrose. It doesn’t just taste great but is also vegan, organic and gluten-free, making it perfect for the modern beer drinker.”

Surj Virk Empress Ale

The new creation adds to an already-successful range from Empress, which was created with the  aim of being a unique, easy-drinking premium craft beer range that pairs particularly well with food. Soon after its launch, it was served as a guest beer in the House of Commons Strangers’ Bar shortly, and since then has gone on to gain the seal of approval from an array of top chefs, bars and hospitality venues.

Like many food and drink businesses, Empress faced difficult times during the Covid pandemic but has continued to grow year on year, securing investment from Grenville Turner, former chief executive of Countrywide PLC and former Zoopla board member, which has helped take it onto the next stage and add to the range.

Surj added: “Our aim has always been to create a great-tasting British-made drink that pairs well with food and stands out from the crowd. We pride ourselves on using the best ingredients, sourced as locally as possible, to create a truly British beer.

“The fact that Waitrose has decided to stock our lager is testament to the great product we’ve made and we can’t wait for people to try it. This is the next step on our journey and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”

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